Art of Murder: Cards of Destiny is a game that makes chasing after a vicious serial killer seem a little less exciting than shopping for groceries. It isn't that the murders aren't horrible, as evidenced by the three minute clip of a woman getting crushed to death in a garbage truck that plays every single time you boot the game up, and it isn't as if the playing card clues left for you by the killer aren't absolutely ready for a prime time cop show. The problem with the game is that solving the murders and making sense of the evidence are done in such a tortuously slow manner that you get the impression that your fearless FBI agent protagonist, Nicole Bonnet, could lay down for a quick nap while the killer patiently waited for her to figure out how to open a box: you need to insert the copper tube into a manhole cover and hit it with a cement block to create a handle for the box's door. Puzzles that take thought are perfectly fine, but when their often illogical and long-winded solutions suck the suspense out of a murder mystery, they begin to cause a problem.
The gameplay in Art of Murder: Cards of Destiny is not fun to play in the slightest. If you’ve ever played any sort of point and click adventure game, then I have the utmost confidence that you’ll know exactly what you have to do in this game. There is nothing wrong with this style of gameplay in and of itself, which is why it has been around for so many years and used in several high quality games. In order for it to work, however, it has to be paired with an interesting protagonist and good puzzles. Art of Murder: Cards of Destiny has neither of these.
Though my contempt for Nicole Bonnet’s intelligence, which is not envied by bags of hammers, and her apparent inability to react to things could fill an entire essay, she’s the best example of what’s wrong with the game’s writing. If, in an adventure game, the main character is a brilliant young agent for the FBI who doesn’t immediately realize that something dangerous is going on when she receives an unmarked envelope containing a newspaper clipping where only her name and the words “serial killer” are circled and it is not a comedy, there is probably a problem with its writing. It is also a problem if, when she sees a film taken of her by a stalker who intersperses the footage of her with footage of dead people and other things of that sort, the main characters only reaction is to say in a completely flat voice, “This isn’t funny anymore.” The puzzles in the game are also seriously flawed, as there seems to be no balance in regards to their difficulty. They bounce back and forth between figuring out that you need to put a film reel in a projector in order to play it and convoluted messes like the half a dozen steps the game expects you to figure out in order to put a piece of evidence in a plastic bag. Rather than feeling like a legitimate challenge, the puzzles feel either insulting to the intelligence of gamers or like someone made a list of household items and situations and drew them out of a hat to decide how they’d work together.
At the very least, the graphics and sound in Art of Murder: Cards of Destiny are better than the gameplay. True, the graphics are a little under the bar set by early Playstation 2 games, from the in-game visuals to the slightly grainy and oddly animated cut scenes, but, aside from some ridiculously dark areas that aren‘t even saved by flashlights, it’s at least easy to see what’s going on and tell all of the characters apart. The game’s sound is a bit better. Most of the music is well-matched to the scene it’s used in, helping create suspense as Nicole’s situation grows more dangerous, and though the voice acting is flat and plagued by the occasional bad accent, it isn’t the worst I’ve ever heard and is helpful in that it allows you to bypass the game’s error-filled subtitles.
If there’s one positive thing that I can say about Art of Murder: Cards of Destiny, it’s that, although I didn’t keep an officially tally of how long the game takes to play, it seemed to provide a very lengthy quest. The only problem with that happens to be that nearly every minute of that quest is a mind-numbing slog that’ll make you wish you were in your living room watching reruns of old sitcoms, as the suspense in watching the cast of Friends order coffee is about the same as that of actively playing this game about catching a serial killer. Adventure games are not inherently boring, and neither are murder mysteries, but all of the pointless procedure that this game throws at you will, at least as you play it, make you forget all of the enjoyment that you ever got out of either of those things.
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